Alexander Petrov
New Paintings

Davidson Galleries, Seattle
October 2 to November 1

Melancholia (1997)
oil on panel

ALEXANDER PETROV is an émigré Leningrad painter who has not only brought with himself a rigourous academic training in both figurative rendering and dramaturgical composition, but a capacity for effortlessly turning commonplace sociological and domestic confrontations into convincing works of Surrealism and Magic Realism. Born in 1957, his likely vivid memories of a dysnfunctional society with its alienation, secrecy and impassivity seem still to condition a world he invents, but his focus is not political so much as palpably psychological. It is as if he has discovered the soft underbelly of socialist realism to be, in effect, a mysterious and uncharted "socialist surrealism."

Petrov has rightly inferred, even from his classical European masters, that a darker vision, whether observed through Velazquez' preternatural children and dwarfs, or early-Picasso's pinched and sad circus people, (or for that matter, Balthus' adolescent girls transported in states of dreamlike eroticism) produces an edge which is un-ignorable and indelible. His fantasy players, dressed variously in rococo finery, slaughterhouse aprons, bullfighter jackets, their night-clothes or underwear, act out mute scenerios in blighted, Chernobylean landscapes, or on stages backdropped, perhaps, to indicate the temporality of life and illusion.

©Ted Lindberg